Splitboarding in Kyrgyzstan

Words & photos – Dan Milner.

There are wolves here, but right now their threat to my survival is low on my list of challenges. Camping in a remote yurt at 9500 ft for a week, having to earn each of the powder lines I’ll ride through a couple of hours of skinning at 11,500ft, and trying to preserve my vegetarian diet in a country whose national game is polo played with a headless goat carcass as a ball, seem more pressing.

I’m splitboarding in Kyrgyzstan, guided by 40tribesbackcountry.com, and am joined by Lib Tech ripper James Stentiford and Roxy rider Tania Detomas for the deluge of experiences to come. Squeezed between its big-boned neighbors of Borat-infamous Kazakhstan to the North and China to the East, the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Kyrgyzstan is classic central Asia in character. Crumbling statues of Lenin and roadside monuments to an all-but-forgotten space race are framed by a backdrop of towering mountains, themselves dissected by vast arid plains dotted with goat-carcass polo playing horsemen.

We’re splitting on the edge of the Tian Shan range, spiky peaks that tower to 23,000 ft, and there is a taste of lawlessness too, of survival and of imbalance. Roads crumble into disrepair, dragging the aging, smoke-belching Volkswagens and Ladas that travel their potholed surfaces down with them, while new and shiny Land Cruisers flash past obliviously.

It’s against this backdrop that we spent a week splitboarding the alpine and treeline faces, riding Utah-light powder and chilling in a traditional yurt each night to the sound of Kazakh radio with a glass or two of vodka in hand. So here’s a peek at the flavors of the trip.

Categories: James Stentiford